With cloud computing in its infancy when the GigaOM Structure conference in San Francisco began in 2008, most of the talks focused on solutions to problems. Today, however, the conference had a much more distinct focus on the future. Specifically, the theme of the show was “What happens to cloud in the next five years?”

Not surprisingly, everyone had a different answer. From Rackspace’s vision of an OpenStack future, to Amazon’s expectations that it will be able to continue to lower prices, the future of cloud services and products seems to be a bright one for enterprise developers.

Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO and vice president, said that cloud has changed the role of the CIO. “CIOs are changing dramatically. They always wanted a seat at the table, but they’re always charged with cost-cutting,” he said.

“IT was seen as the blocker. Now, they have the opportunity to be the hero of the organization. I also see them realizing how they got into that situation. The old vendors were nailing them down with long-term contracts. They see a new world of IT where they are in charge. They are in control of software instead of the vendor.”

Lew Moorman, president of Rackspace, discussed the future of cloud platforms, and more specifically the future of OpenStack. He announced on stage today that Rackspace’s cloud hosting services would be moving onto the OpenStack platform on August 1.

Moorman said that there are currently two solutions to cloud lock-in. The first is to clone the cloud APIs. The second is to use an open standards-based cloud platform.

“Our industry has been obsessed with API standards,” he said. “I’m here to say this is not going to happen. First of all, there’s the basic fact that APIs are nothing more than an interface to real technology. They’re a bridge and a protocol. Cloud is not a protocol, it is a set of incredibly complex technologies. If your strategy is to clone the APIs, you need to be able to clone that technology, but everything behind the cloud is not exposed in proprietary clouds.”

Moorman chided Amazon for being both the most successful, but also the most opaque, cloud service. He said vendor lock-in is at its most powerful when developers use cloud-based services for scaling and databases.

But Vogels said that the cloud offers so many benefits that it’s changing enterprises and how business is done, regardless of whether a platform is open or closed.

“If you look at the world of young businesses and how they’ve changed in the past five years, it’s amazing,” he said. “Look at just the past five months. Look at Socialcam, Pinterest and Instagram. All of these have been helped to build on the cloud. Would they have been able to build that in a traditional world of hardware and infrastructure? I’d like to believe not.”

Vogels also said that in the past five years, Amazon has lowered its prices 20 times, a trend, he added, that will continue. “The reliability and the cost and the availability of these services are going to be so pervasive; ideally the cost goes to something like electricity, where you turn on a lamp and you don’t even think about the cost of the electricity.”

Steve Herrod, CTO and senior vice president of research and development at VMware, said that the future of VMware’s platforms will include virtual networking. He described a future where all hardware in a data center is pooled and available as a resource, from actual compute to storage to networking equipment.

The future is now
The conference was packed with news of new software releases. Garantia Data unveiled a beta version of its new database service. Ofer Bengal, the company’s CEO, said it has combined Memcached and the Redis key-value store to offer a scalable and reliable database service. He said his team has abstracted all control and management away from Memcached and Redis, and allowed both systems to scale and retain data upon failure. The service is priced as a premium on top of Amazon’s Web Services.

Red Hat was hyping up two new products it released during Structure: JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 6 and Red Hat JBoss Data Grid 6. Together, these new platform revisions give developers a way to build transaction-heavy cloud applications and to move them into the cloud when they’re ready for the transition.

Eucalyptus released version 3.1 of its platform at Structure. The new version includes a number of support enhancements. This version now supports deployment on the latest versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, KVM and VMware’s virtualization software. Additionally, the open-source Amazon Web Services-like environment Eucalyptus project has begun to offer its source code on GitHub.